Bobby Palkovich of Merlin charmed showgoers as usual with his over-the-top two-way in now VSM/mx iteration and Joule Electra OTL amps. No surprise there - this is a tried-and-true recipe that simply works. But Bobby did have a 'real' surprise in store, the 30wpc Filarmonia EL34 integrated from Spain. As happens repeatedly between manufacturers, equipment is traded between different parties desirous of owning the other's goods. So smitten was Bobby with one particular trade that he's now become the importer for this Ars-Sonum piece. It sports Mundorff silver-in-oil caps, a chrome-plated steel chassis and in-house designed output and power transformers. Connectivity includes 3 inputs and one tape out. Pricing remains TBA but expect it to come in below $4K.

Besides his own three rooms, Albert Von Schweikert also had speakers in the Moscode room. The Moscode 401HR -- HR for Harvey 'Gizmo' Rosenberg of course -- is a 200/300wpc into 8/4 ohm hybrid stereo amplifier designed by George Kaye and sold Internet-direct with a 33.3-day home trial period. Tubes can be swapped as long as the outer and inner pairs remain identical. Pick from 6H30Pis, 6GU7s, 6DJ8s, 6922s, 6FQ7s, 5814s, 7730s or 12AU7s. A laser-edged display changes color depending on status and can be adjusted for brightness. Introductory pricing is $4,995, with an eventual price increase expected.

Defender of the faithful, 7th Earl of Loch Gren, honorary member of the Secret Order of Merlin... make it what you will, Roy Hall of Music Hall deserves the title for keeping the ouch out of audiophilia. With turntables galore ready to rumble; the tiny Epos M5 bass-reflex 2-way; complete non-creaky Creek electronics; dapper Shanling wares; and now also Whest Audio Ltd. electronics by way of the dap.10 discrete analog processor and the PS20+MsU.20 HighEnd phonostage, the Hallster is the Robin Hood of audio. He always makes good sound on the cheap and while that in itself ain't news anymore where he is concerned, it's still well deserving of repeat mention, especially in the face of rising prices evident all over HE2005. Skoal!

Naim Audio North America under the able leadership of motorcycle fanatic Chris Koster meanwhile launched their new n-SATS [$1,350 - $1,600/pr], n-CENT [$950 - $1,150/ea.] and n-SUB [$2,850 - $3,000] system for a decidedly living-room friendly rig that comes in Cherry, Maple or Black Lacquer finishes and includes remote functionality for the sub as well as three inputs and pre-set interface software. Clearly not a me-too project, this first-ever subwoofer for Naim. The matching n-STAND goes for $350/pr and flat-earth jokes are on the joksters, not those who install this killer system in their homes.

As a devout two-channeler -- the messages I receive from the beyond repeat "Thou shallst neither rumble nor sizzle nor attack friend or foe from behind" -- I gave most exhibits with a video screen a wide berth. Particularly Outlaw Audio was guilty of Richter-scale spasms that - er, migrated into the adjacent Bösendorfer/Art Audio demos. Still and as far as that genre goes, Paradigm of Canada probably put on the most civilized, all-around enjoyable movie magic in the Hilton, putting brains before brawn and finesse before fantastical levels.

Rogue Audio showed with Eggleston Works speakers and focused on their new affordable Titan tube electronics which we already covered in an earlier show report. The people pic shows Rogue's Mark O'Brian on the left and Mr. Echobuster on the right. The remote-controlled 55wpc EL34-based Cronus integrated sells for $1,795, the remote-controlled Metis 6SN7-based preamplifier for $995 and the stand-alone Atlas power amp for $1,395. And for the patriots amongst us, all Rogue gear is made proudly in the US of A. Yeah!

Signals is Chris Sommovigo's newest company whose motto "Ultra-Fi for the Audio Connoisseur" describes its raison d'être and serves to act as the import umbrella for Continuum Audio Labs and Peak Consult, to separate those brands from his own Stereovox marquee. Needless to say, the Aussie gear -- Cobra tone arm at $12,500, Caliburn turntable at $48,000 and Castellon isolation stand at $20,000 -- takes the Ultra-Fi designation very serious indeed. It will take an equally serious vinyl chap like Michael Fremer to intelligently report on the technological breakthroughs hidden behind their svelte facades. The Peak-Consult Empress Reference three-way at $24,999/pr ended the audio chain in this room.

HE 2005 also saw the unveiling of Per Kristofferson's flagship speaker, the $69,999/pr El Diablo Reference. Its multifaceted ported enclosure is handcrafted in Peak-Consult's Danish facilities with a 1.5" - 3.0" specially glued HDF sandwich material that's further covered by a 1" solid Walnut fascia. Special resonance suppressors are milled into the side panels and also part of the internal construction. ScanSpeak's non-ferrofluid 1" ring radiator is mated to a 5" Audiotechnology midrange and twin 9" woofers from the same supplier. The crossover is an acoustical second order for both the 200Hz and 4.8kHz transitions and internal wiring is by Stereovox. Frequency response is given as 20 - 45,000Hz -3dB in-room, sensitivity as 94dB and impedance as 5 ohms linear to 60Hz. Dimensions are 45" x 11.8" x 21.5" H x W x D and weight is 188 lbs ea.

As heard in Sound by Singer's larger exhibit, this speaker has all the earmarkings of being every bit as serious about ultimate performance as its stratospheric price tag would suggest. Some lucky reviewer in a magazine beyond our moons will tell all of us mere mortals all about it. Interestingly enough, where other companies go wild and berserk when it comes to statement-level loudspeakers, Peak-Consult remains well within domestic acceptability in size and appearance and the highish efficiency bodes well for refined rather than brute partnering amplifiers.